Honduran electrification is low and uneven relative to other countries in Latin America. The World Bank estimates that only about 36 percent of the Honduran population had access to electricity (20 percent of the rural population) in 1987. The country's total capacity in 1992 was 575 megawatts (MW), with 2,000 megawatt-hours produced. A mammoth hydroelectric plant, the 292-MW project at El Cajón, began producing electricity in 1985 to help address the country's energy needs. The plant, however, soon became heavily indebted because of the government's electricity pricing policies (not charging public-sector institutions, for example) and because of the appointment of political cronies as top management officials. El Cajón also developed costly structural problems requiring extensive maintenance and repairs. Officials estimated that the government's decision to provide free service to publicsector institutions contributed to a 23 percent increase in publicsector consumption in 1990. Experts estimated that additional electrical generation capacity would likely be needed to keep pace with demand. The Honduran Congress assumed authority for setting electric prices beginning in 1986 but then became reluctant to increase rates. Under pressure from the World Bank, it did agree to a 60 percent increase in 1990, with additional increases in 1991. To offset these increased rates for residential users, the National Congress initiated a system of direct subsidies that ran through 1992.
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